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Collaboration and Coincidence




Anson’s office door went into production this weekend. It’s been a long time coming, but haste would have been a mistake: so much nuance can only come with time.

The original idea came from Howard’s description of the office itself and focused on its Arts & Crafts characteristics. “Als ik kan,” the A&C mantra, has remained the stained glass centerpiece. Mr Dan Salyards incorporated an architect’s caliper and, intuitively, linked the window with Jonathan Rutter’s portrait of Anson’s mother—completed more than two years ago. When Mark Anthony saw the evolving design two weeks ago, he wondered aloud about Masonic symbolism—the caliper-and-square motif—and suggested adding the carpenter’s square. Dan and I agreed on the addition, me on the door frame and Dan in the window itself, leaded into the glasswork. It was one small step to add the 1912 25-cent piece as the caliper hinge (when a dime proved too small). I then recalled the circumstances surrounding young Tennant’s entry in the Agincourt Public Library competition.

In order for the most desirable site to be available—effectively 100% corner at Broad Street and the Avenue, which was likely one of the earliest built properties in the city since its founding in 1853—there had to have been a disastrous but localized urban fire. At that point our friend Dave Pence (alias Steve Spence or Deisel Dave) came to the rescue without knowing it.



Years ago Dave had sent me an unidentified real photo postcard of a small-town urban fire: an evocative smouldering ruin, in this case a three-story building encased in icicles, which I had filed for future reference. Scanning eBay years later (at least ten or fifteen years, in fact), I ran across a fire postcard that looked eerily familiar. Lo and behold, it must have been taken by the same photographer, a slightly different view of the same smouldering ruin, this time identified as a theater in Keokuk, Iowa. What luck. A follow-up google search added details that played into the story, because the fire had occurred in January 1912, perfect timing for the 1914-1915 framework I’d established for the public library project.

And now the story comes full circle (or full enough for me), because the burned Keokuk building had also been a Masonic Lodge, evidenced by the caliper-and-square motif that appears in the third-floor brickwork—crusted in ice but still legible.

There are times I’m grateful to have a long attention span. This has been one of them.

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